Update to Faculty from Academic Senate President

July 30, 2018

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I am writing to update you as best I can on where things stand in this period of transition at USC.  The creation of the Presidential search committee is underway, and the Executive Board of the Academic Senate jointly with the Task Force for Shared Governance completed its assessment of more than 130 faculty nominations this morning.  Although there were many excellent candidates, we came to a consensus on twelve names that we are presenting to the Chair of the Board of Trustees from which to choose the faculty members of the Presidential Search Committee.  Please expect future updates as that committee is formed.

While the determination of USC’s next President is crucial to the long-term goals of our University, it is also important that this period of transition allows for healing and the ability for our entire community to unite toward our common values and principles.  As has been clear to many, there remains too much uncertainty regarding this transition.  One particular area of concern is the disposition of President Nikias in this transition.  While many value the contributions that Nikias has made to this University, there appears to be broad faculty consensus that it would be inappropriate for Nikias to continue in office during the search for a new permanent President. The Senate Executive Board has been working diligently to communicate the faculty point of view to the Board of Trustees, and I have remained very optimistic that the Board of Trustees will understand the tremendous potential damage that could occur if Nikias returns to lead our University.  The University community at large had understood that Nikias would not be returning, and his return would suggest that we are not able to move forward and would harm our University in the eyes of our students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and the public at large.

While I believe that the majority of the Board of Trustees understands this perspective, this is also a time that the Board should hear from Faculty to understand our position.  While there may be a variety of opinions on this issue, I believe that the large majority of Faculty understand why Nikias should not return as our President.  There is a letter currently being circulated by a group of Faculty (“Concerned Faculty”), and I encourage you to read it (https://ConcernedFacultyofUSC.com).  I have personally found the letter compelling and in line with my thoughts on these issues – I therefore plan to sign it.  There are those of you who may feel otherwise or would state things differently and would therefore be less comfortable signing it.  At this time of transition, and as we think about how to engage Faculty in university governance in the future, this is an important time to consider the best ways to communicate our opinions, affect change in the University and be engaged as Faculty.  While the Senate has often (and will often) work behind the scenes on behalf of the Faculty in order to move the University towards our common values, there are times when other forms of engagement may be required. I encourage individual Faculty members as well as groups of Faculty, whether on their own or working through their Faculty Councils or Senate, to write directly to the Board of Trustees with their sentiments on issues (botchair@usc.edu).   In this case, there may be those who do not believe as I do that there will be harm to USC and our community from Nikias’ return, and I think it is important that those voices are heard by the Board as well.

Through all this, and despite some unavoidable challenges, I believe that we are continuing to move towards the type of faculty engagement that will make this an even better University, and I continue to welcome as much involvement from our faculty community as possible.

Yaniv Bar-Cohen
Academic Senate President